King Tut’s mask damaged after beard glued back on with epoxy, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo i s one of the city’s main tourist sites, but in some areas, ancient wooden sarcophagi lay unprotected from the public, while pharaonic burial shrouds, mounted on walls, crumble from behind open panels of glass.
Tutankhamun’s mask is over 3,000 years old. The Egyptian pharaoh ruled between 1332 and 1323 BCE and there is much debate about how the young king – who was about 18 – died. The most widely accepted theory is that he suffered a fatal fall.
Evidence suggests that his burial was hurried, with analysis of the paint in his burial chamber suggesting he was entombed before it had even dried.
The tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter and George Herbert. Its contents are now one of the Egyptian Museum’s top exhibits.
“Unfortunately [the conservator] used a very irreversible material — epoxy has a very high property for attaching and is used on metal or stone but I think it wasn’t suitable for an outstanding object like Tutankhamun’s golden mask,” one source said.
“The mask should have been taken to the conservation lab but they were in a rush to get it displayed quickly again and used this quick drying, irreversible material.”
The conservators said there is now a gap between the face and the beard of the mask, which has a layer of transparent yellow.
Another member of staff who was there when the mask was repaired, said that epoxy had dried on the mask and a spatula had to be used to remove it – scratching it in the process.
The museum and the Antiquities Ministry did not comment on the damage, but a conservators said an investigation is currently underway.
Egyptologist Tom Hardwick said: “From the photos circulating among restorers I can see that the mask has been repaired, but you can’t tell with what … Such a repair will be highly scrutinised.”